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The Sorbs / Wends

 

Lusatia is the geographical description of the Sorbian settlement area that stretches from South-eastern Brandenburg until Eastern Saxony. Its name originates from the Slavic language, from the word “Luzica” meaning marsh. The Spree Forest (Błota) is situated in Lusatia and thus belongs to the settlement area of the smallest Slavic nation, the Sorbs/Wends. They cultivated this landscape more than 1000 years ago.

 

Sorbs call themselves “Serbja” in Upper Lusatia and “Serby” in Lower Lusatia. In addition to the term “Sorbs”, the term “Wends” is also used in German-speaking terminology.

Both terms can be traced back to the Latin terms “Sorabi” and “Veneti”.

Ancestors of the Sorbs are supposedly Slavic tribes that settled the area between Elbe and Oder, as well as the Baltic Sea and the German low mountains in times of migration more than 1400 years ago.

As a consequence of assimilation and targeted Germanisation, the area of settlement reduced enormously after the loss of autonomy in the 10th century.

Despite this, descendants of the Upper Lusatian “Milzener” and the Lower Lusatian “Lusizer” were successful in preserving their language and culture up until this very day and continue to pass it on to coming generations.

 

The nation of Sorbs/Wends (approximately 60.000) is one out of the four autochthonous minorities that live in Germany.

The specific feature that continues to fascinate visitors is the phenomenon of bilingualism, which is visible on town signs, street names, labelling of firms, businesses, municipal institutions, and even bilingual conversations are common.

The region is rich in history and holds diverse cultural peculiarities. Traditional craft, customs and bilingualism will provide you with the opportunity to experience the homeland of Sorbs untainted by the passage of time.

All of the individual traditional costume areas in Sorbian Lusatia together compose the biggest closed traditional costume area in Germany. Wearing these traditional costumes expresses substantial folk culture and is an important marker of identification for the Sorbs/Wends.

 

Depending on the town in Spree Forest and accordingly in the parish, traditional costumes differ, for instance in colour, the length of skirts and size of bonnets. Differences do also exist according to occasions; there is the festive day costume, the churchgoing costume as well as the work costume.

Numerous customs, such as “Birds Wedding” (Vogelhochzeit), trick-or-treating (Zampern), Shrovetide (Zapust), witch burning, setting up and casting of the Maypole, Easter riding, the decoration of Easter eggs, burning down of Easter fires, harvest customs (i.e. stubble riding, rooster plucking and ring-riding) and fairs are very popular within each of the regions.

Outside the families, youth and associations are involved in promoting the vivid tradition. The Sorbian language is maintained, traditional costumes are worn and traditions of the home region are preserved.

Professional and amateur ensembles present Sorbian folklore, including typical songs, dances and folk instruments. In selected restaurants and guesthouses typical Sorbian meals can be enjoyed.

 

The places of the Sorbian settlement area with their specific architecture, museums and country parlours (Heimatstuben), and churches and monasteries offer you a deep insight into the former lives of Slavs in Germany.

The following pages will provide you with further information about Sorbs and Wends:

Sorbischer Kulturtourismus e.V. www.tourismus-sorben.com

Domowina - Bund Lausitzer Sorben e. V. www.domowina.de

Sorbische Kulturinformation LODKA www.lodka.sorben.com 

 
 
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